If you’re one of the many who followed the Philando Castile case from Facebook Live to jury trial acquittal, you only know what you know. You know what your eyes have been privy to, what you’ve heard from media releases, the opinions of others projected into your mind and others during responsive editorial segments, and you know the emotions evoked by the situation.
However, one common and continuous question demonstrates what people seem to not know and that is, “But how?”
How did a jury find the officer who shot Mr. Castile not guilty?
A few weeks ago I encouraged you to join a new movement, a new kind of innocence project.
I think the answer to how is that the jury adopted the rules the way they were meant to protect an accused person, which is innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
The officer in this case became a defendant and secondhand accounts of what happened in the courtroom during the trial indicate one constant provision of his defense is that it has already been decided that police cannot be judged by the 20/20 hindsight of people like us who were not there and were not involved in the rapidly evolving circumstances that led to uncertain moments in a potentially dangerous situation. In this case, the officer testified in his own defense, he wanted people to know how he felt and why he feared for his life. If after seeing all the video evidence and hearing all testimony, the jury decided they believed the officer, and believed their gut feelings telling them they have reasonable doubts about what the officer intended the moment he fired his gun, then they are the final decider of facts in the case.
When a defense attorney hears a not guilty verdict, he or she may celebrate freedom from guilt for his or her client. When a prosecutor hears a not guilty verdict, he or she may ask how or why.
When a defense attorney hears a guilty verdict, he or she may ask how or why. When a prosecutor hears a guilty verdict, he or she may celebrate a win.
Where it becomes complicated is deciphering how the public reacts to verdicts because you have to first divide the public by social and cultural issues and then determine opposing views based on which side they are on.
What I really see when I observe current trends in legal justice is a society that is hurting. I see a public network of people in fear, civilians of many races and colors and officers of many races and colors. Fear is the trending emotion right now. Fear is the master of keeping people from becoming the best version of themselves. So the question we should be answering is, “How can we transcend above what we fear and transform our fears into positive changes in ourselves and in our communities?” Answering this will heighten the audible tones of your aching voice and yearning heart.
But if you aren’t interested in answering this question, or if your only interests are in bashing jury members, bashing the justice system, and bashing one another, civilians and officers alike, then you shouldn’t ask how or why because you don’t actually care about the solutions…and if you don’t care about involving yourself in the implementation of solutions, then who are you to ask how or why, what effect does your opinion have?
Seeking to improve our understanding of the underlying issues within the legal system. Join me as I continue refining society’s legal literacy by discussing hard truths about the system. -Devika L. Carr, Esq.